MARK KEOHANE fears for the Bulls on their tour of New Zealand and Australia.
They’re the team I support but I can’t see them winning a game on tour after their performance against the Force.
The Blues have always been a difficult team for the Bulls to play against. History suggests even the best Bulls teams struggled with the Blues and early 2013 season form suggests more pain for Pierre Spies and his boys at Eden Park on Sunday.
The Bulls tour this season is among the more difficult travel assignments because the Crusaders in a fortnight will be a different proposition from the limp mob bossed around in Auckland a week ago.
The Brumbies have settled well in what was always going to be a bigger test than last season. All credit to Jake White and his coaching ability. He took no name brands last year and youngsters and stunned many teams with a South African brand of rugby. He is evolving that to find greater balance between something you see from the best Australian and South African teams. He is doing it splendidly and if you see how easily the Brumbies did break the Bulls defensive line a year ago, it could be more of the same in Canberra, but with a different result to last year at Loftus.
By the time the Bulls reach Brisbane it could be that their minds are already in Pretoria and their bodies could be punch bags for the Reds attack. It is the nature of touring early and having such a difficult assignment.
The Reds copped 60 points early on against the Bulls in Pretoria a year ago and it is the timing of the return clash that could see a reversal of fortunes.
The Bulls pack will be strong but it lacks a dynamic edge and unless centre Jan Serfontein is introduced from the outset I don’t see the Bulls backs doing much damage. They look laboured in the first two matches and they play too laterally. Serfontein is still a kid but he’s an exciting talent. Outside of that the backline is loaded with solid citizens and not many citizen X’s.
The Bulls have the intent to play good rugby and they want to use the ball but they don’t have the kind of backline player good enough to turn those half chances into something spectacular. Their best bet would be to strangle the Blues pack and hope for slow poison. To do so their overall defence would have to improve but the combination of travel and attacking limitation makes this more a possibility than a probability.
I’d have a different view of the tour if it was the Reds first up but it isn’t and while the next month could get messy for the Bulls it doesn’t mean they can’t make the play-offs.
A few years back they lost five in succession and went on a fantastic home run. Teams can lose up to six games in the league and still make the play-offs. Losing four on tour would be a bad month but not necessarily mean a bad tournament.
Two wins out of four would make for a very good tour, but even one win in four would be a decent return for a team whose form has been more flat than fabulous, despite their forward-based winning effort against the Stormers in the opening match.